Though Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade in Jackson is four months away, organizers already have a grand marshal and a theme.
The 2014 edition of Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade will salute grand marshal and popular Jackson bartender Cotton Baronich and proceed under the theme “Drink Local, Think Global,” parade founder Malcolm White said.
The 32nd parade will march and roll through downtown Jackson at 1 p.m. March 15.
Baronich, now retired, turns 84 in December and has logged 60 years in the food and beverage business. He started in his native Biloxi in 1950 and moved to Jackson and a post at its then-newly redone Sun & Sand after Hurricane Camille. Baronich declined the job at first claiming, “Well, there are too many Yankees up there,” but the manager persisted and that’s how he came to the capital city.
“Sun & Sand, George Street, Hal & Mal’s, Edison Walthall … those are the main places where he has been a professional mixologist and storyteller for all of these years,” White said.
Baronich is known for his mantra, “Everything is beautiful” and the elegant figure he cut behind the bar at downtown Jackson watering holes. Baronich is also referred to as “The Doctor.”
“In the business, I had a lot of patients. I call them patients, you know,” Baronich says of his bar patrons. He met his wife, always referred to lovingly as “Miss Jean” and the longtime owner of Jean’s School of Dance, in Jackson; she died in 2008. “She was a lady, and I still miss her. … I miss her so much. I still miss her on the weekends, especially. She was beautiful.”
Baronich said, “I sure am” looking forward to the grand marshal experience. “It’s going to be different for me … but I think I’d appreciate it, and I’ll do my best.
“We’re going to see what we can do. I’m ready,” Baronich said. Of Yugoslav parentage, first-generation American Baronich said, “We’ll have to change it to O’Baronich — make it Irish.”
With the theme, White predicted krewes will promote local brews, local pubs, local characters and local bartenders in their own themes and floats.
White said the St. Paddy’s celebration will continue in a vein started with last year’s Alabama Shakes concert and will again feature a concert by a national attraction after the parade. Offers are in, but there’s no contract yet; expect that announcement soon.
Construction on Capitol Street presents a potential issue for the parade route this year; if the parade can’t access Capitol Street, there will be a slight adjustment to Pearl Street instead, White said.